World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play
With a 1 UP win in the Finals, top-seeded Dustin Johnson staved off first-timer and 21-seed Jon Rahm to claim the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play for his 15th PGA TOUR title in 208 career events, third this season in seven starts, and third consecutive.
This was the 32-year-old's ninth Match Play appearance with a previous-best T5 last year, when he won Group 8 but lost in the quarters (3-2-0 record).
He posted a perfect 7-0-0 mark this year en route to a fifth overall WGC title in 29 tries, becoming the first player to win each of the four WGC events:
The South Carolina native began this 3-win streak at the Genesis Open, where he had to play 36 holes on Sunday, and endured another 36 this Sunday, outlasting 54-seed Hideto Tanihara 1 UP in the semis.
Johnson ascended to World No. 1 for the first time with the Genesis win; won in his first start as World No. 1 at the WGC-Mexico Championship; and wins again, leaving no doubt as to who the best player on the planet is and erasing any question as to a potential letdown.
The Coastal Carolina product took one week off in between the Genesis and Mexico, and two weeks off before this one. Smartly, he’s since withdrawn from the Shell Houston Open (fatigue) ahead of the season’s first major in two weeks.
Johnson played 112 total holes over the five days, and never trailed at any point.
In the Championship Match, he built a commanding 5 UP lead thru eight holes against the 22-year-old Spaniard, but Rahm trimmed that to three with par wins at Nos. 9 and 10.
Johnson won the 12th with birdie-4, now 4 UP with six to go, but Rahm won 13 with his first birdie of the contest, and 15 and 16, also with birdies.
The duo traded a couple of hair-raising pars for the final margin with Johnson shooting the equivalent of 1-under 70 (three birdies, two bogeys) and Rahm 71 (three birdies, three bogeys).
Johnson, who won three times last season in 22 starts en route to Player of the Year honors, joins Justin Thomas as three-time winners already this season. Hideki Matsuyama is also a multiple champ in 2016-17 with two wins.
Johnson's WGC titles (5): 2017 Match Play; 2017 Mexico; 2016 Bridgestone Invitational; 2015 Cadillac (now Mexico) Championship; 2013-14 HSBC Champions.
He is second all-time in WGC wins to Tiger Woods (18), though Tiger never won the HSBC (in two tries), finishing T6 in 2009 and 2010 when it was an unofficial event on the PGA TOUR. Interesting side note: Johnson won the 2013-14 HSBC, the first year it was an "official" event on TOUR.
This was the 19th overall edition and second consecutive at the 7,108-yard par-71 (35-36) Austin Country Club.
The Winner’s Road to the Finals:
Defeated 58-seed Webb Simpson, 5-and-3
Defeated 41-seed Martin Kaymer, 3-and-2
Defeated 18-seed Jimmy Walker, 5-and-3
Round of 16:
Defeated 44-seed Zach Johnson, 5-and-4
Defeated 8-seed Alex Noren, 3-and-2
Defeated 54-seed Hideto Tanihara, 1 UP
Defeated 21-seed Jon Rahm, 1 UP
The Runner Up:
Making his tournament debut, 21-seed Jon Rahm finished solo 2nd and exited with an impressive 6-1-0 record (and $1,045,000). He was the Group 7 winner, highlighted by a 6-and-4 thumping of countryman (and 7-seed) Sergio Garcia on Friday.
This was the 22-year-old's second WGC event and second top 3, finishing T3 in Mexico in his last start three weeks ago, also won by Johnson. He reached the Finals with a 3-and-2 win over 42-seed Bill Haas in the morning semis.
Rahm was making his 21st career start on TOUR (16 pro) and posted a third straight top-5 finish, fourth in his last five dating back to his maiden title at the Farmers in January.
In nine starts this season, the Arizona State alum has seven top 25s and four top 10s. Total deposits: $3,336,145.
He was No. 137 in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) when he broke through at Torrey Pines eight weeks ago and is now a career-high 14th, up another 11 spots. Rahm also bumps three places to a career-best 4th in the FedExCup (FEC) standings.
Johnson, a pre-tourney 9/1 outright, banks 550 FEC points for the victory and is the new leader with 1,903 points, 150 points ahead of former leader Hideki Matsuyama, who finished T51.
Top 10 in FEC standings (points):
1. Dustin Johnson (1,903); UP two
2. Hideki Matsuyama (1,753); DOWN one
3. Justin Thomas (1,751); DOWN one
4. Jon Rahm (1,256); UP three
5. Adam Hadwin (1,140); DOWN one
6. Pat Perez (1,041)
7. Jordan Spieth (1,036); DOWN two
8. Brendan Steele (926)
9. Marc Leishman (847); UP two
10. Rickie Fowler (838); DOWN one
Note: Gary Woodland (830) dropped from No. 10 to No. 11 with a T39 (1-2-0 record), winning his first match but then WD (personal).
With a Strength of Field rating of 728 (down from 779 last year), Johnson earns 74.00 world-ranking points and maintains the top spot, 3.7903 average points ahead of Rory McIlroy.
Top 10 in OWGR (this week’s finishes):
1. Dustin Johnson (Won)
2. Rory McIlroy (T30); 1-1-1 record
3. Jason Day (T58); 0-3-0 record; WD during first match (personal)
4. Hideki Matsuyama (T51); 0-2-1
5. Henrik Stenson (idle)
6. Jordan Spieth (T30); 1-1-1
7. Adam Scott (idle)
8. Justin Thomas (T39); DOWN one; 1-2-0
9. Rickie Fowler (idle)
10. Alex Noren (T5); UP one; 4-1-0
Note: Sergio Garcia dropped from No. 10 to No. 11 with a T30 (1-1-1 record).
3rd Place Match:
Group 11 winner and 42-seed Bill Haas rallied to a 2-and-1 win over 54-seed Hideto Tanihara in the consolation match and claimed 3rd place with an overall record of 5-2-0. It was a nice bounce back for him after the 3-and-2 loss to Rahm in the morning semis.
This was Haas' seventh Match Play with a previous-best T9 last year, when he won Group 6 but lost in the Round of 16. It was his 28th overall WGC event, eighth top 10, and eclipses a previous-best T4 at this season's HSBC.
The 34-year-old was 1 DOWN thru four holes against the Japanese first-timer but squared the match with birdie-3 at five. Tanihara moved back to 1 UP with an ace at the par-3 seventh, and 2 UP at the turn, winning the ninth with par.
Haas leveled the contest claiming the 10th and 11th, the latter with birdie-2 (from 28 inches) after a fortuitous bounce off the hill. He lost the 12th (concession) but moved back to 1 UP with par wins at 13 and 14, closing out at 17 with par while Tanihara 3-putted from 37'4" for bogey.
Making his tournament debut, 54-seed Hideto Tanihara lost his last two matches on Sunday but departs with a career-TOUR-best solo 4th and an overall record of 4-2-1. He jumps 12 spots to a career-high 48th in OWGR, which got him into the Masters in two weeks.
The 14-time winner on the Japan Tour was making a 45th career PGA TOUR start, fourth in a WGC event. His previous best in a non-WGC was T5 at the 2006 Open Championship and his previous best in a WGC was T32 at this year's Mexico Championship.
The 38-year-old's surprise run to the consolation match was highlighted by a Group 5 win and punctuated with the hole-in-one at the 207-yard seventh (8-iron).
Other Notable Finishes:
Søren Kjeldsen: The 62-seed sent first-timer and 48-seed William McGirt packing with a 5-and-4 triumph in Round of 16 action but then lost to Rahm 7-and-5 in the quarters. He was the improbable Group 2 winner, including a 2-and-1 win over 2-seed Rory McIlroy, eventually finishing T5 with a 4-1-0 record.
The Dane, who’s a first-time TOUR member though not a rookie, records a career best in 16 overall WGCs and a TOUR best in his 48th career TOUR start, previously T6 at the 2009 PGA Championship.
Ross Fisher: The 47-seed eliminated 13-seed Bubba Watson 4-and-3 in Round of 16 and then lost to Tanihara 4-and-2 in the quarters. He was the Group 4 playoff winner with a 2-1-0 mark and exited with an overall record of 3-2-0 for T5.
The Englishman records his fifth top 10 in 18 WGC events, and with 367 total non-member FEC points, becomes eligible for Special Temporary Membership for the remainder of the season, joining Thomas Pieters, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton, who had qualified previously and have accepted. He also bumps four spots to 49th in OWGR and gets into the Masters.
Alex Noren: In a battle of then-unbeatens, the 8-seed got the best of 20-seed Brooks Koepka 3-and-1 in Round of 16 play and then lost to the would-be-champ 3-and-2, departing with a 4-1-0 overall record.
The Swede was the Group 8 winner and records his first top 10 in 13 overall WGCs, and a career-TOUR-best in his 27th TOUR event, previously T9 at the 2012 Open Championship.
Puerto Rico Open at Coco Beach:
D.A. Points: With a final-round 6-under-par 66, the second-round co-leader and World No. 634 overcame a 1-shot deficit to win the 10th edition of the Puerto Rico Open by two over Retief Goosen, Bryson DeChambeau and Bill Lunde.
It’s his third TOUR title in 285 career events, first since the 2013 Shell Houston Open (97 starts ago), and first top 10 since the 2013 Barclays. Inclusive of his maiden win at the 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, all three of the 40-year-old’s victories have been in come-from-behind fashion.
This was his fourth appearance and second top 10, joining T9 on debut in 2009. It was the Illinois alum’s seventh start of the season with a previous-best T39 at the AT&T Pebble Beach six weeks ago (his last start).
After opening in 64-69-69, he began the finale one adrift of 54-hole leader and playing competitor Chris Stroud, who closed with 71 for T8. With lift, clean and place in effect (for the third straight round), the Windemere, Florida, resident striped 12 (of 14) fairways and hit 15 greens in regulation.
He raced out with five straight birdies, played holes 6 thru 12 in birdie-less 3-over, and then circled four of his final six.
The Illinois native, a pre-tourney 175/1 outright, catapults 380 spots to 254th in OWGR and leaps 131 places to 55th in the FEC standings. He lost his card last season after finishing 184th in FEC points but regained it in the Web.com Tour Finals where he was 22nd in Finals money, 17th excluding The 25.
Points earns a 2-year exemption on TOUR and though the win does not come with a Masters invite, he does qualify for the 2017 PLAYERS and PGA Championship, and the 2018 SBS Tournament of Champions.
A total of 81 pros from a field of 130 pros and two amateurs made the 36-hole cut of 3-under 142:
41 (of 66) EARLY/late
40 (of 65) LATE/early; 1 WD
Secondary 54-hole cut: 71 pros at 4-under 212
16 players finished in the top 10. SEVEN were EARLY/late, including the champ.
R1: Trey Mullinax (63); career low, tied course record
R2: Tim Wilkinson (63); tied course record
R4: J.J. Henry (63); ties course record
Last year, there were 10 bogey-free rounds total. This year, with light winds, soft course conditions and preferred lies three of the four days, there were 57.
Retief Goosen: The 48-year-old finished in a three-way T2 on 18-under 280 (68-67-71-64). He entered the week 0-for-7 on the season. The South African posts his first top 10 in his second appearance (T21/2016) and first top 10 on TOUR since solo 6th at the 2015 Barracuda Championship. Overall, it’s his eighth runner-up in 311 career TOUR starts with his last (of seven) wins coming at the 2009 Transitions (now Valspar) Championship.
Bryson DeChambeau: Making his tourney debut, the second-round co-leader bags his first runner-up and second top 10 in 27 career TOUR starts (22 pro). His previous best was T4 at the 2016 RBC Heritage in his pro debut. The 23-year-old, one of 43 first-timers in the field, gains a top-10 exemption into this week’s Shell Houston Open following rounds of 68-65-70-67.
Bill Lunde: Making just a second start of the season on Past Champion status, the second-round co-leader and World No. 1033 finished T2 (65-68-69-68). It’s his second top 25 and second top 10 in six appearances (T10 on debut in 2010), and his first runner-up in 142 career TOUR events. The 43-year-old and 1-time TOUR winner of the now-defunct Turning Stone Resort Championship (2010), posts his first top 10 since T7 at the 2013 Sanderson Farms and also gains entry into this week’s Houston Open.
Other Top-10 Exemptions into the SHO:
TOUR Rookies: 19
Top-10 finishes: 2
J.T. Poston (66-72-66-69) and Andrew Johnston (70-67-66-70) shared top-rookie honors with T10s on 15-under 273. For Poston, this is his third top 25 of the season (13 starts), second straight (T14, Valspar), and first career top 10. For Johnston, this was his first top 25 and first top 10 of the season (five starts). His career-TOUR-best in 10 events is solo 8th at the 2016 Open Championship.
12 of 20 winners this season were in their 20s.
5 were in their 30s
3 were in their 40s
15 of the 19 winners (minus Match Play) emerged out of the FINAL group on Sunday, including Points. The four outliers are:
Marc Leishman: Penultimate twosome: erased 3-shot deficit w/ 3-under 69; won API by 1.
Hideki Matsuyama: Penultimate threesome: erased 4-shot deficit w/ 5-under 66; won WMPO in playoff.
Jon Rahm: Fifth-to-last threesome: erased 3-shot deficit w/ 7-under 65; won Farmers by 3.
Brendan Steele: Third-to-last threesome: erased 4-shot deficit w/ 7-under 65; won Safeway by 1.
54-hole leaders/co-leaders are now 8-for-19 converting:
Converted: Hideki Matsuyama (WGC-HSBC), Mackenzie Hughes (The RSM Classic), Justin Thomas x2 (SBS TOC and Sony); Jordan Spieth (AT&T Pro-Am); Dustin Johnson (Genesis); Rickie Fowler (Honda); Adam Hadwin (Valspar).
Failed: Patton Kizzire (Safeway); Anirban Lahiri (CIMB); Luke List, Chris Kirk (Sanderson Farms); Lucas Glover (Shriners); Gary Woodland (OHL); Adam Hadwin (CBC); Patrick Rodgers, Brandt Snedeker (FIO); Byeong Hun An (WMPO); Justin Thomas (WGC-Mexico); Kevin Kisner, Charley Hoffman (API), Chris Stroud (PRO).
Consecutive top 10s on TOUR:
Dustin Johnson (1st-1st-1st-3rd)
Jon Rahm (2nd-T3-T5)
Adam Hadwin (6th-1st)
Consecutive top-10 streak ended:
Rory McIlroy (T30-T4-T7-T4-P1)
Tyrrell Hatton (T17-T4-10th-T4)
Tommy Fleetwood (T39-T10-2nd)
Stay tuned to this space for all the latest player news and analysis as the TOUR readies for its 21st tournament of the season (of 47).